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Friend’s Barbs Are His Failings

Judith Martin United Features Sy

Dear Miss Manners: Our family has a beloved friend whom we have known over 36 years and whom we include in our special family events. However, he is a fierce literary critic, and in so being, he seems insensitive to the invitations.

For example, when he received my written invitation to the celebration of our daughter’s having received her Ph.D., he responded by telephone in his very loud voice: “This is the apostrophe police!! You put the apostrophe in the wrong place!!” - with no comment or kind remark on her fine accomplishment.

Another time, I sent him a note containing a lovely drawing of our dear deceased dog, which I knew he would enjoy, and he telephoned and shouted: “You’ve spelled his name wrong!!! It’s Cholmondeley, not Cholmonedley!!!” - when I had thought he would be touched to see a drawing of our dear dog who died 23 years ago.

I now am reluctant to write our friend little notes, yet all of our family is so fond of him that I am saddened by the situation.

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners isn’t going to ask you why you have a lifelong fondness for someone who shouts criticism in place of expressing benevolence or gratitude.

You are also devoted to your dog who has been dead for 23 years. And you named him Cholmondeley. Warm and loyal soul though you may be, you obviously have a weakness for eccentrics.

Miss Manners is less charmed by your friend, possibly because those who fail to make the distinction between responding to requests for instruction and offering free-lance unsolicited advice give the noble cause of etiquette a bad name.

She admires you for accepting him anyway but warns you that you then have to give up being wounded by his barbs. This is his failing, not yours.

(You may also want to give up writing to him. Dare Miss Manners hope that he refrains from correcting you as you talk?)

A friend of 36 years should be intimate enough to be able to reply, “Never mind the apostrophe; what about the party?” or “Well, he was a fine dog, but he couldn’t spell.”

Dear Miss Manners: Our home has become the neighborhood center for a large group of my son’s friends. They are all very nice boys, about 12 years old, and we are happy to host them. Some of the children, however, arrive early in the morning and leave well after dinner. During the school year, they come to our house instead of going home after school.

Our suggestions to these boys that their parents might sometimes take the initiative to host the group have been to no avail. In three years, there are parents we have never met or have seen only in passing. We are now worried about losing our temper when we finally do see these parents.

Is there a way to get these parents involved without making them mad?

Gentle Reader: Probably not. They don’t sound as if they are involved with their own children, so why would they want to be involved with other people’s?

Miss Manners asks you to stifle your anger and reflect on how much luckier your son is for having parents who care and a home where he knows his friends are welcome.

You might even reflect on how lucky you are. You know where your son is. You have the chance to get to know his friends and to offer them some badly needed warmth and supervision. If their parents were just overburdened and grateful that their children had somewhere to go when they work - as no doubt they will argue if you confront them - you would have heard them overflowing with gratitude to you long ago.

xxxx

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate

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